One of the most important things a church does is to follow up on guests who visit the church or any activity sponsored by the church. It is a key to church growth. Each church must customize what works best in their particular setting. Churches today are rethinking the follow up components with guests. Part of the initial follow up could be by e-mail, phone, personal visit with materials about the church, letter, meal with a member, etc.
Churches that connect effectively with guests beyond the first visit focus on serving people well. They also use intentional follow up as a vital part of their overall assimilation process.
When we think about follow up to guests, we make a mistake if we consider all of them exactly the same in their receptivity. A church should handle everyone with great care because that is what Jesus would do, but it helps to focus on those most ready and eager to make a decision for Christ and or join the church.
Gary L. McIntosh says we need to divide guests into two types: suspects and prospects. Suspects are people who visit our church and we suspect that they might be interested in the things of the Lord, but they are actually just looking. Prospects are people who attend our church, and we can tell that they are interested in spiritual things. They are people who are sincerely seeking a relationship with Christ and the church. He goes on to say that a church’s effective follow-up plan depends on being able to separate the suspects from the true prospects who visit the worship service. In general, first-time guests are suspects. They may be interested in the Lord. They may be interested in the church, but then again, maybe not. Guests who return for additional visits are the true prospects. By attending your church again, they are in effect saying that they liked what they found the first time. They are back for a closer look.
Get A Plan in Place
Churches should make contacts with all guests but especially those who are prospects rather than suspects. Church growth studies have found that the average growing church in the United States keeps 16 percent of all first-time guests. In contrast, the average church keeps 85 percent of its second-time guests!
Churches must do all they can to help first time guests become second timers.
One way is to focus on their needs. Do they need to know that you provide great child care? Do they need to know about your women’s or men’s ministry? Do they need some biblical help with their finances? Do they need a clear presentation of the Gospel? As we focus on these folks we need to discover what their needs are and then seek to meet those needs in the love of Jesus.
Today’s guests want their visit to be acknowledged somewhat but they are not expecting a visit from the pastor that afternoon. As a pastor I found that most people like to visit incognito! Usually it took them two or three visits before they even filled out a guest card. People today are much more guarded about their privacy than in the past and this includes visits in their homes.
In Gary McIntosh’s excellent book, “Beyond the First Visit,” he gives five principles for follow up.
Follow-up is most effective when guests receive …
- A friendly contact-Offer your friendship. Take care not to offend new people.
- A personal contact-Focus on the guest’s interests and needs. Nothing takes the place of personal touch in our lonely world.
- A prompt contact-Contact guests within 24 hours. The longer the time between their visit and a contact, the less effective the results.
- A non-threatening contact-Put the guest at ease. Guests have a natural uneasiness about new places and people.
- A continual contact-Follow-up is a process, not an event. A onetime contact is not enough to be effective in our present environment.
How is your church doing in following up with people that the Lord has brought to your door? Focusing on improving your follow up process will reap great rewards.